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Tel Aviv & Orlando: The Big Difference

June 19, 2016 | by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Imagine the naming of parks, institutions and sporting events in honor of Omar Mateen.

On the surface, the stories seem similar. The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv at the Sarona market and the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando were both gruesome examples, in but a two-week span, of the vicious butchering of innocents in the name of an ideology of evil.

“You see, Rabbi,” someone said to me, “it doesn’t just happen in Israel. It’s the same thing in America as well. We’re all living through the identical horror.”

There is, however, one enormous difference. An Israeli friend put it best to me when he explained:

Americans wept and mourned after Omar Mateen slaughtered 49 partygoers for the sake of a misguided and evil cause to which he pledged himself. We share their pain. But thank God Americans are spared one final indignity which inevitably follows the acts of terrorism unleashed against us Israelis. Americans do not have to endure the subsequent glorification of their killers by the society around them.

We, the Israeli told me, face the horrific death of our loved ones; then we have to continue to be reminded of the depraved joy of our neighbors as they worship our murderers as heroes.

Imagine for a moment that after the tragedy in Orlando institutions, parks and sporting events would be named in honor of Omar Mateen. Imagine his wife given gifts and cash awards in the sum of tens of thousands of dollars. Imagine photos of Omar publicly displayed to inspire youth to follow in his footsteps. The thought beggars belief.

Yet terrorists in Israel – those who survive as well as those who perish – become instant folk heroes for martyrdom.

Two terrorists were involved in the Tel Aviv bloodletting. One was taken alive, the other died of his wounds. The Palestinian Authority immediately took upon itself the payments it makes to those participating in these “acts of glorious resistance.”

The PA pays large bounties to the attackers and their families. A terrorist can go out to commit murder assured that if he is arrested he will receive a monthly salary. If he is killed, his family receives a monthly pension. If his family home is destroyed, his family will get a very generous award to rebuild their home.

Rather than being deterred by the harsh consequence of their terrorist attack at Israel’s hand, the perpetrators are actually encouraged and incentivized by the Palestinian leadership. According to one study published by the Gatestone Institute, “Terrorists in prison receive higher average salary than PA civil servants and military personnel.”

Just last month, a dispute arose between Iran and the Palestinian Authority. As a special incentive, Iran promised to pay $7,000 cash to families of every terrorist killed by Israel and $30,000 more if Israel demolishes their homes, effectively creating a life insurance policy for terrorists. Ever since the lifting of sanctions, Iran seems to have significant funds available to pursue its nefarious interests. But the PLO was outraged. Not because they had a problem with the morality of giving money to support terror, but because they were denied another great opportunity for corruption and theft of funds by not sending the funds to them for distribution.

Only when it comes to Jews can depraved murderers become iconic figures of heroism and valor.

Palestinian martyrs, no matter how heinous their crimes, can expect glory and fame beyond anyone’s wildest dreams here on earth.

Abd Al-Baset Udeh, killer of 30 at the Passover Seder massacre in Netanya, had a soccer tournament for 14-year-olds named for him. His brother was honored with distributing the trophies.

Dalal Mughrabi, terrorist bus hijacker who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history in 1978 when she and other terrorists killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, has had summer camps, schools, graduation ceremonies and sporting events named for her, as well as many TV documentaries honoring her. Palestinian newspapers also frequently glorify her as the heroine of "the most glorious page of heroism in the history of the Palestinian struggle”.

Thaer Hammad, who as a lone gunman murdered 10 Israelis in 2002, was glorified by the official PA daily as “the hero of the Intifada."

In May of this year a chess tournament was named after a terrorist responsible for many terror attacks, including the death of an infant in her stroller – but the terrorists honored most in Palestinian society are those who have killed the greatest number of infidels.

When Israel, out of compassion, returns the bodies of terrorists to their families for burial the result invariably is a huge mob celebration of the funeral as a wedding between the deceased and his newly acquired virgins, highlighted by calls to those in attendance to continue the glorious ways of the hero being interred.

In Orlando, Americans saw firsthand the horrifying results of the kind of religious fanaticism so frequently witnessed against Jews in Israel. The responses were communal outrage, condemnation from all corners and universal denunciation.

In America, everyone agrees that terrorists are not heroes and Omar Mateen cannot possibly become anybody’s role model. Israel’s challenge is far more difficult. Because somehow when it comes to Jews, terrorists are not meant to be condemned as much as they are to be understood. Only when it comes to Jews can depraved murderers become iconic figures of heroism and valor.

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